Stuart A. Staples
leaving songs (Beggars Banquet)
As the frontman for London’s Tindersticks, Staples lent his teddy-bear vocal timbres to a hundred elegant variations on the boozy, romantic lament, many of them seemingly set in a Paris apartment with peeling wallpaper midway through a passionate (or really fucked-up) weekend. The band rarely faltered in 15 years since its first heralded single. With his second solo album, leaving songs (his first U.K. solo disc from 2004 is bundled with the U.S. release), Staples is unlikely to throw off ’Sticks loyalists. A recent one-off gig (performing Tindersticks II at London’s Barbican) was rumored to be the band’s last, but Staples has plenty more to say.
Leaving songs, recorded primarily in Nashville by Mark Nevers of Lambchop, gives Staples Southern textures to play off of, a few country licks and some pedal steel on the lukewarm “This Road Is Long” with Maria McKee. But with several Tindersticks on board, only a few of the band’s admirable quirks, like its soul obsession, are sanded away. The spaghetti-western shuffles, swelling filmic orchestrations, nods to Lee Hazlewood and duets (Lhasa de Sela joins in on the poignant “That Leaving Feeling”) are all there. But the overplayed Americana/country angle gets in the way: A twangy guitar on “This Old Town” scrapes at the blackboard.
The besuited Tindersticks raised the bar for adult music, but this exquisite album often opts for restrained maturity. It finds the usually unsettled singer cooling his desires rather than passing on their fire.—John Dugan
Stuart A. Staples plays Abbey Pub Wednesday 1.